The Jewish core has emerged stronger than ever these past few weeks. The monstrous massacre, compounded by the public blaming Jews for it, was a murderous double stab to the collective Jewish heart. The fact that some of our decades-long friends and neighbors have turned on us so suddenly left us disillusioned. We were once proud to say, “My best friend is Muslim,” but it turned out that some of them were not our friends. We loved our alma mater and thought of it as home. It turned out it never was home.
Oh, they say they don’t hate me. They just hate the Jews in Israel. But they don’t get it. The Jews in Israel are me. It’s not that I agree with everything Israeli Jews say. It’s that they are my heart and soul. They are the blood that pumps in my heart and the life that pulses through my veins. When they bleed, I bleed. You think I can separate your disdain of them from myself? You are mistaken.
I can’t blame you. I never told you different. I gave you every appearance of being Canadian, American, European, Australian. Turns out I was always Jewish. I didn’t realize it. And neither did you.
But you know what? Your rejection, your stab in the back, reinforced my true identity. I have been beaten so deeply, battered so profoundly, that I am shaken to my core. And once my core came to the surface, I discovered the truth. My core is Jewish. Thank you for reminding me; for showing me my Jewish core.
Social Media Posts
This has been the experience of many Jews these past few weeks as the Jewish core made a comeback. I will share two social media posts that illustrate my point.
The first is from Omer Barak, a self-professed Israeli leftist who considered himself a man of the world. He recently broke the internet with the following post:
When I self-reflect about ideas I used to have and about which I have since changed my mind, only two words come up. The two words I have always refused to say, ani Yehudi—I am a Jew. Wow, how I hated this two-word sentence. When I lectured abroad, I would identify as Israeli. If someone asked about my Jewishness, I would deny it. I would say that I was born a Jew, but there is nothing Jewish in me today.
This past week, that response bore a hole in my soul. It doesn’t give me rest. I was born in a home that mocked Judaism. I simply didn’t want to believe that I was that poster child with the black beret [hands raised and cowering before mocking Nazis]. I wanted to believe that I was a man of the world, an author, a journalist, and a screenwriter. My Judaism was not part of my identity. It was not even listed in my passport.
This, too, was a mistake.
I might not be the child with the black beret, but I am a Jew. For the first time in my life, I understand that no matter how hard I try, I can’t escape it. For the first time in my life, I realize that I don’t want to escape it. I am proud of my Judaism. I am ashamed that I denied it. I will not start wearing a Kipah, and I don’t think you will see me at the synagogue, but I will seek out my Judaism and my G-d. I will seek out the identity that others have tried to destroy for so many years. By mistake, I nearly destroyed it myself. And with my own hands.
Today, I lit candles with my children for the first time in my life. I didn’t have any candles at home. I borrowed some from a friend, but I wanted to light them. I did not even know the proper blessing. So, we recited the blessings for Chanukah candles. Whatever. But we prayed for the soldiers. And for ourselves.
I don’t know if I will light candles every week. I don’t know where this journey will lead me. I do know that I am Omer Barak, an author, a journalist, a screenwriter, an Israeli. And a Jew.
The other was an Instagram post by American actor and designer, Ilan Muallem Srulovicz
I have a confession. And I think it’s going to be true for a lot of Jews out there. And it’s a big lesson for you Jew haters, so I suggest you listen. Growing up, my Jewish identity was a completely separate part of my life. I never even thought about it. My parents told me stories about what they went through. My mom had to escape Iraq because she was a Jew, and sadly, most of my dad’s family were killed in the Holocaust. But I never personalized it. It was never super real to me. It was just stories of things they went through.
Then, after October 7, seeing the way the world responded to the attack and the amount of Jew-hatred that actually exists kind of woke up my Jewish side. It made me reconnect with it fully. And I think people don’t realize just how many Jews out there have reconnected with their Jewish identities now. You know, we were disappearing. We were marrying non-Jews at exceptional rates. Most of us don’t follow the religion . . . now so many of us are activated.
You strengthen us when you attack us. So, I have to say thank you to everyone who has reminded all of us Jews what it actually means to be Jewish. Thank you for showing us the true face of antisemitism. And thank you for uniting us once again because I promise you. We are stronger than ever now.
The Jewish core has emerged. You beat us back and bat us down, but it only reminds us of who we really are. And when we remember our truth, when we find our Jewish core, we find our strength.
Thank You Esau
It all began with the twins Jacob and Esau. Jacob loved the study tent, Esau loved to hunt. Their mother, Rebecca, loved Jacob. But surprisingly, their father Isaac, the saintly legendary Jewish patriarch, loved Esau. What did he like about Esau? That he hunted people with his words.
Esau would push and badger people. He would tear them down. His greatest joy was to tempt and taunt the innocent, righteous Jacob. Their mother couldn’t stand it, but their father knew the truth. Esau was strengthening and toughening Jacob.
Indeed, the day came when Isaac offered Esau his blessing in return for venison. Esau went to hunt, and Rebecca sent Jacob into Isaac’s tent dressed to look like Esau. Isaac sniffed the goatskins on Jacob’s arms and sensed the fragrance of paradise. Isaac knew that Esau and paradise didn’t mix. But he gave his blessing anyway. What happened here?
Our sages noted that beged and boged, Hebrew for garments and betrayers, are etymologically related. When Esau’s garments smelled like paradise, Isaac knew it was Jacob dressed to look like Esau. At that point, he knew that he had been right all along. On the surface, Esau would ensnare some of Jacob’s descendants, and many might don Esau’s garments. But despite their garments—their outer appearance of betrayal, their core would be Jacob. They would have a Jewish core. And Esau would strengthen it.
The day will come when those of Jacob’s children, who befriend Esau’s descendants, will realize that some of their neighbors and friends don’t pass the smell test. They are not me. I am not them. They just don’t get it. And now, I finally do. I looked like Esau on the outside. I dressed, talked, behaved, and lived like Esau. But my fragrance, my core, was never Esau. I have a Jewish core.
Thank you, Esau, for showing me my Jewish core. I finally know what Isaac saw in you. The rabbi never shook up my Jewish core as your betrayal just did. The loveliest sermons and essays passed right by me. You shook me up and toughened me up. You exposed my Jewish core as Isaac knew you would.